Brain Tumour Research DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Lord BethellMain Page: Lord Bethell (Conservative - Excepted Hereditary)
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I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Nearly three years ago, this House was witness to one of the most courageous and moving speeches in its long history when Baroness Jowell argued for better support for people who, sadly, like her, die from rare cancers. We have made progress since then; fluorescent dye to aid surgical accuracy has been rolled out and new specialist brain cancer centres have been set up across the NHS. However, funding for research is lagging. Of that £40 million promised by the NIHR, only £6 million has been allocated. Can my noble friend tell the House what the department is doing to address this issue and is he prepared to meet with representatives of the brain cancer research charities in order to think of a way forward?
My Lords, I have been told that only 5% of national spend on cancer research is devoted to brain tumour research. Let us consider the collaborative work being undertaken on precision medicine by the University of Bristol and Queen’s University Belfast. What additional funding could be dedicated to this area, which provides individualised treatments to ensure better patient outcomes?
My Lords, brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, and I am grateful to hear my noble friend’s acknowledgement that research funding is not yet enough. Does he agree with the proposal to change the system so that if a site-specific brain tumour grant is deemed fundable by a panel, it will automatically be funded during a highlighted brain tumour funding round such as the one announced last month?
My Lords, on 6 November this year, the Government spoke of developing quality research and funding through a successful partnership and sustainable alignment with the charity sector. When can we expect to see some results from that initiative, with work and funding to achieve those goals?
My Lords, several references have been made to our late and much-loved colleague Tessa Jowell, who I was proud to call a friend. Was she not prescient when in her last speech to this Chamber she said:
“I am not afraid. I am fearful that this new and important approach”—
referring to research—
“may be put into the ‘too difficult’ box”. [Official Report, 25/1/18; col. 1170]
When the Minister tells us in all sincerity that it is just too difficult to spend the £40 million that was promised, will he at least give this House an assurance that after this discussion he will take a personal and direct oversight of this matter, because it would be a great tragedy if those words of Tessa Jowell proved to be correct in the long run?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Reid, referred to Baroness Jowell’s final speech, when she told us not to give up fighting this pernicious cancer. The noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, the then Minister, gave the assurance that the Government would not cease support for research into new treatments. Can the Minister confirm how many more research programmes into brain tumour treatments and therapies have been funded by NIHR since then? Is he confident that enough is being done?
I, too, was privileged to be present when Baroness Jowell spoke. In 1988, a 27 year-old man whose wife was eight months pregnant and who had just completed the London Marathon, was told by a neurologist that he had a brain tumour and six months to live. My Lords, that young man was me. I thank God and the doctors and nurses at the Royal Free Hospital that I am here to tell this story.
What is being done to educate and work with families and loved ones, who take the brunt of providing support for the patient and who most likely have no medical knowledge? While the Minister will be aware that not all brain tumours are cancerous, can he explain the Government’s commitment to fighting this niche but deadly form of cancer?
The time allowed for this Question has elapsed.